Tongland (gang area)

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For the village in Dumfries and Galloway, see Tongland.
Tongland graffiti in the Calton area of Glasgow, 2004

Tongland is a local nickname for the area of Calton, Glasgow controlled in the 1960s by a violent Scottish teenage gang called the Tongs.

Tongland appears in Gillies MacKinnon's 1995 movie Small Faces, set in the 1960s.[1] The Tongs' and other gangs' power over the area and their decline in the 1970s is described in Janey Godley's 2005 autobiography Handstands in the Dark.[2]

The Tongs financed themselves by levying protection money on local shops and marked out their territory with their graffiti "Tongs Ya Bass".

"Ya bass" in this context is generally taken as the Glasgow slang for "you bastard", though it could be the Gaelic war cry ‘aigh bas’ meaning ‘battle and die’[3]

The legend of its origin is this: "In the sixties in an East-End cinema near Fielden Street"[4] some of the local Calton youths were watching a film "The Terror of the Tongs"[5] about the Chinese secret society when McCabe shouted out 'Tongs ya Bas' for the first time. He also adopted the name "Terror McCabe" from the film.[citation needed]

'Tongs Ya Bass' arguably became Glasgow’s unofficial motto in the Sixties and Seventies.[6]


  1. ^ "British Film Institute page on 'Small Faces'". 
  2. ^ "Handstands in the Dark", pub 2005, Chapter 10
  3. ^ "ya bass was in fact the ancient Gaelic expression "battle and die".".  'Today' International Chid and Youth Care Network. Retrieved Sept 2013
  4. ^ Scotia, 7 Millerston St, search for "Scotia" under "Completely demolished". Moderne interior tyling. Closed as cinema 1964, Bingo until 1985, demolished 1987.
  5. ^ the 1961 low budget Hammer film The Terror of the Tongs
  6. ^ "The Scotsman". 2 September 2004.